Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Greatest Health Divide in the World:
UNICEF on the State of Maternal Care in 2009

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Having a child remains one of the biggest health risks for women worldwide. Fifteen hundred women die every day while giving birth. That’s a half a million mothers every year.

“It’s really an unconscionable number of deaths. It’s a human tragedy on a massive scale,” says UNICEF Chief of Health Dr. Peter Salama.

The difference in pregnancy risk between women in developing countries and their peers in the industrialized world is often termed the greatest health divide in the world.

A woman in Niger, for example, has a one in seven chance of dying during the course of her lifetime from complications during pregnancy or delivery. That’s in stark contrast to the risk for mothers in the United States, where it’s 1 in 4,800, or in Ireland, where it’s just 1 in 48,000.

High maternal mortality rates are found disproportionately in African and Asian countries, particularly in post-conflict conditions. There is also a close correlation between maternal deaths and societies with high fertility rates.

In the very countries where women are expected to have many children, they face disproportionate risks during pregnancy, according to UNICEF Gender Specialist Noreen Khan.

'The State of the World's Children 2009' says women must be guaranteed, at a minimum, antenatal care, skilled birth attendants, emergency obstetrics, adequate nutrition and postpartum care.

These essential interventions will only be guaranteed within the context of improved gender equality and the abolition of discrimination. Providing more educational opportunity for girls will also empower them to make healthier reproductive choices and better understand the risks of pregnancy.

Prenatal health problems and obstetric complications can also be reduced by increased training and human resources, for example. And cultural traditions impeding women from delivering with assistance can be confronted with more awareness and, of course, education.

UNICEF’s new report (The State of the Worlds Children 2009 ) launched in South Africa on January 15th, advocates a ‘continuum of care’ to empower young women and improve their chances of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy.

To read the complete copy of "The State of the World's Childreen 2009" go to

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